Everyone knows the Apple iPhone 3GS is hot, but some users are finding it unbearably so. Some white iPhones are reportedly overheating to the point of causing pink or brown discoloration on the back of the device.
The French tech site Nowhere Else first reported the story on June 26, including images of lightly discolored phones, and at PC World, writer Melissa J. Perenson experienced a similar problem, with the iPhone heating up to the point that she couldn't put it to her cheek. In Perenson's case, she was using it while it was charging.
RapidRepair CEO Aaron Vronko-who performed this teardown of the iPhone 3G S, literally moments after it first became available-suspects the problem is the battery.
If that turns out to be true, Vronko told Wired, "My guess is there's going to be a whole lot of batteries affected because these are from very large production runs. If you have a problem in the design of a series of batteries, it's probably going to be spread to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, and maybe more."
Just in case heating problems should arise due to, say, summer, Apple issued a common-sense-encouraging announcement on June 25, stating that iPhone 3G and 3GS should be kept in temperatures between 32 and 95 degrees F.
Apple warned that, should the device exceed normal temperatures, the device may stop charging, the display may dim, there will be a weak cellular signal and a "Temperature" warning screen will appear on the device.
What can trigger the Temperature warning? Leaving the device in a car on a hot day and leaving it in direct sunlight for extended amounts of time, Apple states in the notice.
But then it also adds to the list, "Using certain applications in hot conditions or direct sunlight for long periods of time, such as GPS tracking in a car on a sunny day or listening to music while in direct sunlight."
Overheating batteries can be very dangerous - they've been known to cause fires and even lead to injuries. If the problem persists, a vexing problem for Apple could be that since the iPhone battery is not removable, entire devices would need to be returned.
However, Ezra Gottheil, an analyst and Apple specialist with Technology Business Research, doesn't expect the issue to escalate so far.
"I think the most likely outcome is replacement of the discolored phones, and a software upgrade that eliminates the problem," said Gottheil, who also doesn't expect the issue to reflect poorly on Apple.
"Issues like this don't really hurt companies if they have the savvy and resources to respond," Gottheil told eWEEK. "Even a full-scale recall and replacement, which I think is unlikely, would still leave the iPhone very profitable."